Official Blog of the Education Exchange Corps

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Global Leadership Game Debut

It was 10:05 AM. We couldn't wait any longer.

"Folks, welcome to this professional development session." The necessary introduction. We cut it to maybe 40 seconds. A whole world awaited the teachers sitting in front of us, and they didn't even know it!

In the middle of the room, sitting up on a table, was a 4 foot by 2 foot map of a strange land with some mini plastic boats of different colors in different positions.
That same map was projected on a screen in the back of the room, but with names near certain land masses and waterways.

"Recent events threaten global stability." I described the current world situation. One country, Samistonia, was rich in oil. They shared hostilities with their southern neighbor, Yadistan, a country with an economy focused on alternative energy. Hyrule, a country with tremendous agricultural output, wanted to be totally self-sufficient. Greybourg, a manufacturing hub, sought energy-source diversity.

Kittissippi, a country located in the northwest corner of a traditional map, lurked in the shadows and sold intelligence to other major powers. No participants would control Kittissippi.

Off to the east of a traditional map were three countries, all linked together. The Rock, a country on a small island, served as the trade and government center for the region. Skeerem was a land of warriors. Brocoland to the south was home to the world's greatest nutritionists.

And then crisis struck.

A small, unmanned plane, equipped with what appear to be high-altitude cameras, crashed in central Brocoland. Brocoland’s Council of Scientists notified The Rock’s government. The Rock, in line with its historical policy of maintaining global neutrality, and in an effort to protect itself from accusation, notified the world about the plane crash. The Queen of Kittissippi claimed ownership of the plane and demanded its immediate return. Kittissippi said that they were using the plane to track a group of fugitive mice and to observe local bird migratory patterns.

Shortly before these events, a group of exiled Samistonian oil scientists working in The Rock released a report indicating that central Brocoland is home to large oil reserves.

We divvied up the participants into the four most powerful countries: Yadistan, Samistonia, Greybourg, and Hyrule. Our own Sam Golembieski played the President of The Rock. 

We gave little instruction to our participants. Instead, we handed each country an envelope. Inside the envelope was a world map and several copies of a confidential memorandum revealing secret information about the superpowers. 

At first, the participants had little idea about what to do. Some went immediately into discussions with other countries. Others did little, perhaps waiting for something to happen. 

After several minutes, I called the attention of every country to the large map in the middle of the room. "This is where we will see your countries' decisions play out."

I told each country that they had two major tools on their desks: military units and a pen. They could choose to deploy the military as they saw fit. They could also use the pen to write out agreements made with other countries. Everything was up to them.

I strongly suggested that each country discuss how they were going to make decisions over the course of the game. 

Several more minutes passed. I asked for any announcements. The countries, now all moving about busily, asked for more time. After a couple of minutes, Samistonia and Hyrule announced an alliance. They started to make all of their decisions together.

President Sam of The Rock then made an announcement of his own: All countries were invited to a summit at The Rock to discuss the effects of rising sea levels and climate change. Greybourg asked if the summit would also include discussion of the spy plane incident. President Sam said it would.

The summit demonstrated the different governing styles that had emerged. Hyrule and Samistonia sent one delegate together. Greybourg sent most of their participants. Yadistan sent everyone.

As talks proceeded, each country received a hurriedly-written memo. Hyrule learned that a separatist group was attempting to wrest control of the westernmost portion of the country. Samistonia learned that their domestic oil conglomerates had organized and demanded increased oil trade with Hyrule as a result of the newly-formed alliance. Greybourg learned that their domestic labor unions, worried about that same alliance, requested security assurances.

Yadistan received a note that one of their nuclear power plants was in jeopardy of melting down. However, because all of Yadistan's delegates were at the summit, this memo sat unread for several minutes of gameplay.

The summit proceeded, at first tentatively. But within maybe three minutes, it picked up steam. Country representatives were having serious negotiations about global resource use, military deployment, trade, and intrigue. At one point, a representative from Yadistan asked Greybourg if they would be willing to take military action against Kittissippi if it was found Kittissippi was trying to get oil for itself from Brocoland.

But time was flying by. I told the countries that their decisions were due to me in just minutes. President Sam thanked everyone for coming to the summit. A representative from Greybourg asked, "So we're leaving the summit without any kind of resolution?" If only we had more time!

The countries rushed to submit maps with their decisions on them. Yadistan stationed almost all of its troops at home in case the potential nuclear meltdown was the result of foreign sabotage. They also stationed some troops at The Rock to watch over Brocoland and to make sure no one tapped it for oil. Greybourg moved its ships and troops to protect the Strait of Queequeg and keep trade with The Rock open. Hyrule moved troops into its western lands to suppress the uprising. Samistonia appeared to be in a perilous position, with Yadistanian troops deployed at crucial sectors of the Middle Sea.

The story was not over, but the game had to end. We had a brief discussion about what the future might have held for this make-believe world. 

I told the teachers that even if they could not take a similar game with them into their classrooms, they could take away three ideas to make their lessons even more engaging for kids: Create an immersive narrative, give kids responsibility, and cede control of the process to students. 

And I told them who launched the spy plane, who had brought the world to the brink of international conflict. It was Kittissippi after all, researching migratory bird patterns.

Elad Gross
President and CEO
Education Exchange Corps